Ceisteanna–Questions. Priority Questions. - Fisheries Protection.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

4 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources his views on the allegations made by fishermen that foreign fishing trawlers are getting easier access to Irish fishing grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17567/01]

The arrangements for access by foreign fishing vessels to the six and 12 mile bands, the Irish Box and the Irish exclusive economic zone, are governed by EU legislation. There has been no change to the access arrangements since the establishment of the western waters effort regime in the mid-1990s. Access is one of the issues currently being considered in the context of the review of the Common Fisheries Policy. While some member states want to see the six and 12 mile limits removed and the Irish Box abandoned, I will continue to strongly oppose any such moves. In addition to retaining the current access restriction I am concerned to ensure that in the review adequate protection is provided to coastal states to ensure that a sustainable balance is retained between fishing effort and resources in those waters. The work we initiated in the European Union in relation to stock recovery programmes will provide long-term benefits to fishermen by ensuring that young fish are not removed. It is through these initiatives and even-handed control and enforcement within the Common Fisheries Policy that the long-term interest of fishermen can best be protected.

Our fisheries protection services are working to ensure that all vessels fishing in the Irish exclusive economic zone respect all relevant conservation measures. In the first four months of this year the Naval Service sighted 761 fishing vessels in Irish waters and boarded 437 of those vessels for the purposes of inspection. In total, half of all Irish vessels sighted were boarded and about two thirds of the non-Irish vessels were boarded. Efficient, even-handed fisheries control is vital to ensuring sustainable fisheries in our waters. I have stressed to Commissioner Fischler the need to ensure a level playing field in respect to effective fisheries control throughout the European Union and I will continue to raise this issue at every opportunity.

I thank the Minister for his reply.

Given that I have heard the Minister state his position on this, can he give to the House a reason Irish fishing boats are restricted in the length of gill net allowed on board for catching tuna and a range of other fish? This is at a time when foreign vessels do not have to meet the same stringent regulations.

That is a separate question to the one tabled.

The Minister touched on the conservation aspect of it.

The Deputy would have to put down a separate parliamentary question for me to give a specific answer regarding the length of gill nets. The same regulations apply to all EU countries. I attempted last year to assist in respect of those regulations. I will give the Deputy the details he requests.